Clay Matthews: Packers’ OLB depth ‘not that great’

cowboys_075The Green Bay Packers changed defensive coordinators and overhauled the secondary this offseason. New general manager Brian Gutekunst, however, mostly ignored upgrading the linebacker spot.

The Packers waited until the 248th pick in the draft to select a linebacker, Kendall Donnerson, and didn’t add a pass rusher in free agency. Green Bay had a chance to snatch a top edge rusher in the draft, but instead decided to trade down and pick up a future first-round selection.

With one of the best 3-4 defensive line trios in Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Muhammad Wilkerson, Green Bay is counting on interior penetration to make up where the outside group lacks.

With Aaron Rodgers ‘ return from injury, on paper, the Packers ‘ roster has few holes outside the glaring one at edge rusher. Green Bay is hoping the lack of depth behind the injury-prone Perry and Matthews doesn’t come back to haunt them in 2018.

It frees him up to play more first- or second-down nickel and be available in that way and be fresher during the course of the game, defensive line coach Bryant Young said last week, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Not that he couldn’t handle it because I thought he did a good job of handling the [strongside] and playing defensive end. Just having him available to play more reps at defensive end will be good for us.

Playing more linebacker in 2017, Beasley’s sack numbers dipped from a league-high 15.5 in 2016 to five last year.

I wasn’t rushing as much as I normally would, Beasley said. There were less opportunities, but it was for the betterment of the team and what the team needed most at that moment. I was fine with that.

The Falcons ‘ best pass rusher playing any significant amount in coverage seemed like a faulty plan last season. The move back to defensive end full time should allow the Falcons to keep their best quarterback menace on the field more.

According to NextGen Stats, Beasley played more than seven fewer snaps per game in 2017 than his sack-filled 2016 campaign. Most of those snaps came in obvious run situations; Beasley played on fewer than 10 run plays in the Falcons ‘ final six games of the season, including two postseason tilts.

Texans claim Stephen Morris off waivers

Quarterback Stephen Morris got waived by the Seahawks over the weekend, but he didn’t have to wait long to land another job.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Texans have claimed Morris and added him to their 90-man roster.

Morris spent just under a month with the Seahawks and has spent time with five other teams since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He did not get into a regular season game with any of those teams.

Justify already won on horse racing’s biggest stage when he held off a hard-charging Good Magic to capture the Derby on a muddy track at Churchill Downs. Rain is expected at Pimlico Race Course in the days leading up to the Preakness and on race day, which could set up a similar scenario to how jockey Mike Smith took Justify out to the lead before the final turn and pulled away.

Then Shanahan left for the west coast, Steve Sarkisian took over and an Atlanta offense with the same core fell to the middle of the pack with an average of 22.1 points per game, while dropping to ninth in offensive DVOA.

But it can take a season’s worth of growing pains for an offense to adjust to a new system and a new coordinator. So while the Falcons haven’t undergone many changes since they were NFC champions, those viewing the glass half-full might have hope that the talented offense can return to that form in Sarkisian’s second season.

It’s his second year now calling plays in the NFL, he gets a good idea of what flies and what doesn’t fly with the personnel we have and don’t have, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this month. “I think that’s gonna be where he’s gonna make some major strides.”

In 2015 and 2016, only two NFL teams rushed for fewer yards than the Baltimore Ravens, and that lack of balance could help explain why the Ravens failed to post a winning record or make the playoffs in each of those seasons. bucks_051

Lions not likely to sign Ziggy Ansah to long-term deal

The Lions have until July 16 to sign franchise-tagged defensive end Ziggy Ansah to a long-term deal. It sounds like they won’t need that long.
pearing this week on PFT Live, Lions G.M. Bob Quinn seemed to indicate that the team is more likely to take a wait-and-see approach with Ansah in 2018, before deciding whether to make a multi-year commitment. Quinn spoke in terms of new coach Matt Patricia getting to know what Ansah. In theory, Patricia could see enough to conclude that a long-term contract is justified before the deadline for finalizing a deal — if Ansah signs the tender and shows up for the offseason program.

Barnes didn’t have that in his game two seasons ago, and perhaps not even last season. He barely ran the pick-and-roll, and when he did, it was stilted. His game has tilted a hair more toward traditional perimeter play this season. He’s setting fewer screens, and navigating around more as a ball-handler. His drives are up, and his isolations are down, per and Second Spectrum. He is attacking the rim with a new physicality, especially when he goes left.

He’s jacking about 1.5 more 3s per game over last season, and a lot of the jump has come via tougher off-the-dribble bombs. He has hit 38 percent of those. His rebounds, assists and free throws have all ticked up.

But the gains are small. Two dimes and four free throws per game is still low considering how often Barnes has the ball. Barnes is growing. The NBA is really hard. Some players never grow at all. But Barnes’ growth has come in small increments.

“People think you have to be knocked out to have a concussion,” Rypien told The Spokesman-Review, via the Associated Press. “There are hundreds of times you shake it off and get back in there. It’s all about the cumulative hits. That’s what cause brain damage.”

Rypien, 55, said he has attempted suicide and suffers from persistent depression, anxiety and isolation. He once left a 20-minute audio suicide message, he said, and another time his wife, Danielle, found Rypien after he swallowed 150 Advil with a bottle of wine.

“It was the thought that people aren’t going to miss me,” Rypien said. “I was shameful and guilty of poor decisions, shameful and guilty of being depressed all the time. I didn’t want to be around anymore.”

Rypien, who spent six seasons with Washington, hopes his story helps others.bills_060